You don’t realize how important something is until it’s gone

white nose fungus on bats

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Nearly 7 million bats – and counting – have succumbed to a fungus that has been spreading throughout the eastern U.S.

White nose syndrome, named for the visible white fungal growth on the noses of affected bats, has spread throughout the eastern U.S., including Ohio.  First documented in eastern New York in 2007, the fungus appears to infect hibernating bats, with a mortality rates 90 to 100%.

The fungus is believed to be an introduced species, in part because North American bat populations seem to have very low levels of immunity, or genetic resistance.  In contrast, European bat species and the white nose fungus appear to have evolved over time to co-exist.

In addition to tremendous ecological ramifications,  impacts include economic losses (estimated losses in agriculture: billions), public health (bats eat mosquitoes and other insects that may vector disease), and loss of tourism (cave tours and hiking contribute millions of dollars into area economies > here’s an example).

Working with the unknown – even in this day and age – presents several challenges.  Recent research at the University of Akron is helping put together some of the puzzle pieces.  Hannah Reynolds, lead author on this study featured in Science Daily, is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Pathology.
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Learn more about bats and white nose syndrome >

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